Zen is a school of MahÄyÄna Buddhism. The word Zen is from the Japanese (but also Cantonese) pronunciation of the Chinese word ChÃ¡n (ç¦ª), which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyÄna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state".
Zen emphasizes experiential wisdom in the attainment of enlightenment. As such, it de-emphasizes theoretical knowledge in favor of direct self-realization through meditation and dharma practice. The teachings of Zen include various sources of MahÄyÄna thought, including the PrajÃ±ÄpÄramitÄ literature and the teachings of the YogÄcÄra and TathÄgatagarbha schools.
The emergence of Zen as a distinct school of Buddhism was first documented in China in the 7th century CE. From China, Zen spread south to Vietnam, and east to Korea and Japan. As a matter of tradition, the establishment of Zen is credited to the South Indian Pallava prince-turned-monk Bodhidharma, who came to China to teach a "special transmission outside scriptures, not founded on words or letters". Wikipedia - Zen